There are phrases I would never have dreamt of saying. "Hey, I'm speaking to you through my sunglasses" happens to be one of them, but with the Fauna Audio Glasses, this dream has come true. This Bluetooth-enabled speaker-sunglasses certainly changed my mind through this review with an ingenious concept. However, there is still some work that needs to be done in terms of fine-tuning its software.
- Cool looking glasses
- Inconspicuous looking
- Practical charging case
- Design is perfect for cyclists
- Weak sound unsuitable for musical playback
- 4-hour battery life is rather short
- No power off switch
- Select connectivity issues
A Brief Summary
Sunglasses with a built-in sound system is not your ordinary wearable device. If you were to fork out close to €250 for such a device, then one would expect a decent degree of audio performance. At the same time, if you don't want to enjoy your music on a device like this, then the eyewear should also function well as a pair of sunglasses and not be distracting.
The Fauna Audio Glasses straddles both territories without being outstanding in either. When listening to music, we repeatedly encountered connection problems where the sunglasses' connection dropped suddenly, and this is where we hope that a software update will improve things in the future. The audio performance is decent if you don't mind background audio, but when compared to headphones, it clearly lacks bass and has low volume levels when you intend to use it to enjoy your music.
I admit that using the case as a charging cradle is a really cool idea. This way, you can be sure that your glasses will always be at-the-ready to provide you with musical playback each time you wear them. The major drawback would be having the glasses turned on at all times, as there is no button to turn it off. Hence, if you just want to keep the glare of the sun out from your eyes without listening to music, the price to pay would be having to drain its battery life. Wearing it is comfortable enough for everyday use, which is a good thing!
Who are the Fauna Audio Glasses suitable for?
For our review, Fauna sent us its "Spiro Transparent Brown" model, which looks like a regular pair of sunglasses with tinted lenses from the outside. The tint does fade away a bit towards the bottom, which is quite practical especially when you are using a smartphone. Alternatively, there is another sunglass model to choose from with two more models without any tint at all. In each case, an optician can recommend you the right corrective lenses so that you can also see well with them.
Fauna's Audio Glasses is intended as a wearable that lasts for the entire day. Ideally, the glasses will remain connected to your smartphone, so you can listen to music or podcasts, receive calls, or be reminded of certain actions by audio notifications. If you want to wear them throughout the whole day, it would be more ideal if you were to have clear lenses, of course.
All Fauna models come with the charging case, which we'll delve into later. With the charging case, the manufacturer stands out from competing models. The recommended retail price for each model is €249 - excluding the cost of lenses at the optician, of course.
This is what I like about the Fauna Audio Glasses
Optics and discreetness
This headline sounds a bit high-brow, but the fact is, hardly anyone will notice that the Fauna Audio Glasses feature integrated speakers. The entire electronics in the glasses are located in the respective earpieces along the temple that are thicker than usual and are matte black in color. If your hair is a bit longer than mine, then the earpieces will simply disappear. Expect to receive puzzling looks in your direction when soft music is heard coming out from the direction of your head.
Perhaps passers-by will also do a double take of you because your looks are so irresistible. The model I reviewed sported a very modern look, which reminded me a bit of the famous RayBan Wayfarer. You know - Everybody Needs Somebody to Love - Blues Brothers, and all that jazz! Unlike some other futuristic wearables, I did not feel ashamed to wear the Fauna Audio Glasses outdoors. Well played!
The charging cradle
Significantly chunkier than a traditional pair of glasses would be the charging case that accompanies each pair. This is an essential part of your wearable as it houses a 1,300 mAh battery that can be fully charged via its USB-C port in two hours. The USB-C port is placed in a rather odd location though, but at least it frees the glasses from having to integrate a charging port.
How do the glasses power up? There are two contact points located along the frame of the glasses, but they disappear from sight into the hinge when you wear them. Hence, if you fold the glasses when placing them in the charging case, the charging process will begin. Even though Fauna did mention in the description that you have to put a bit of additional pressure in order to ensure a connection is made, I did not run into any charging issues throughout the duration of the review.
As already mentioned at the beginning, the only drawback is that the glasses do not have a power off switch. Instead, the glasses automatically switch into standby mode after about 20 minutes, of which you can only exit via the charging case. Thus, you always have to bring the charging case with you wherever you go, and this might be a bit off-putting for some of us who simply want to walk around in our shorts during the summer. What was originally intended to be a positive idea, unfortunately also has a strong negative effect.
For a long time, I thought about naming this segment "sound quality". Somehow that doesn't quite fit the bill, because listening to music with the Fauna Audio Glasses is a totally different experience. During the entire review duration, I came up with the equivalent of having an invisible speaker hovering above your head.
There are four speakers - a 2-way system with patented USound MEMS technology, which are not aimed directly into your ear canal, so your ears will remain open to other surrounding sounds. Hence, when you're cycling or simply out for a walk, ambient noises remain unfiltered which is a good thing. Of course, this is diametrically opposed to the current noise-cancellation trend in headphones.
The audio is loud enough that I can understand what is spoken in podcasts, even in the midst of noisy city traffic. However, the sound is rather weak and very treble-heavy. Despite having two woofers, there is virtually zero bass picked up by my ears. I was enjoying some Kendrick Lamar in my review, but I didn't feel energized in my listening sessions.
I wouldn't use the Fauna Audio Glasses for active music listening, but then again, was that really its purpose in the first place? Rather, it is positioned as an outdoor wearable that adds some music playback to your life that's barely audible to others when required.
There is just a bit of sound leakage
To illustrate this point better: I also noticed that there was some sound leakage in the Fauna Audio Glasses but looked at it in a positive manner. I let my friend wear the sunglasses before on a jog and didn't realize until then just how little of music is leaked out from the outsider's point of view. With a recommended social distancing of 2 meters because of the coronavirus pandemic, all I could make of the music was a low whisper. Feel free to listen to embarrassing 90s pop songs or sex podcasts in public, then!
I don't like these
Occasional connection problems
My initial experience with the Fauna Audio Glasses didn't begin smoothly. It simply refused to connect with the flagship Samsung Galaxy S21+ no matter what I did. Since I switched to the Galaxy S21 for review after that, I began another attempt to hook it up, and lo and behold, it worked! However, even so, I experienced some issues as well.
When making a phone call, the connection dropped suddenly, and making phone calls via the glasses simply refused to work for a period of time. The app searches in vain for the glasses after opening the charging case, which is an action that begins the pairing process, where one will also need to activate the pairing via the operating system under the device's Bluetooth settings.
In the Fauna app, there are also buttons to mute the glasses and to disconnect. These didn't always come into effect when I selected them, while device information such as remaining battery life, does not load. Fauna has a lot of work to do with the software here!
Tipping the scales at 50 grams, the glasses are relatively heavy. The weight is distributed over three points on your head, as it is typical with glasses: across your temple via the two ears and the nose. In the long run, the weight becomes unnoticeable, but you are aware that the glasses are there. On my own, I often wear very light glasses, which I usually forget that I am actually wearing them that I often remove my sweaters while forgetting that I'm wearing them. Perhaps that is also the strong contrast that strikes me concerning the Fauna Audio Glasses.
In a more objective manner, the glasses also slipped off my nose from time to time. Of course, this is a headache (hehe) and can certainly be improved a bit by your optometrist when he makes minute adjustments to the glasses for a more comfortable wearing experience. This is despite having electronics tacked onto the glasses.
Battery life when listening to music
Fauna touts a battery life of up to four hours for music playback with its sunglasses. This places this wearable well behind over-ear headphones in terms of battery life, and hence it also runs out of juice faster than many other true-wireless headphones in the market. I don't quite know how well the two technologies compare to one another, but in practice, the battery life is disappointing.
This is especially true since according to the whole point, you should be wearing the glasses the entire day. Do you remember the whistling audio that notifies you throughout the day that I talked about? If you head out to town on a sunny day, you'll run out of juice in no time, and requires you to bring a pair of headphones as a backup if you want to continue enjoying your music privately on-the-go. That shouldn't be the case in the first place.
Other things I noticed
Finally, let's talk about things that simply caught my eye. For my personal purchase decision, the following things would not be so relevant. Perhaps it might be different for you?
- The two electronic elements on the earpieces are touch-sensitive that include volume up, volume down, begin playback, stop playback, and voice assistant activation
- The aforementioned whistling notification sound is followed by an English voice prompt that reminds you to drink water, sit up straight, or play soothing music. Fun Fact: Fauna also suggests you use this to fall asleep, but I would advise you not to do that
- Fauna invites you to send in your own suggestions for whistling notifications. The feature will possibly be implemented in future software updates
- Fauna relies on high-quality ZEISS Dura Vision BlueProtect lenses (without tint) and Carl Zeiss sunglass lenses. The clear lenses come with a blue filter
- The charging case weighs 196 grams
- The glasses are protected against water according to the IP52 rating
I like the direction that Fauna is taking with its Audio Glasses. This innovation, which by the way OnePlus founder Carl Pei is also headed in the same direction with his start-up Nothing, where wearables are best to remain discreet and not get in the way, is something that I am impressed with after spending a few days with it. While it still lacks finesse, the decision to combine an already habitual action (putting the glasses in a case) with a charging mechanism is great.
The glasses themselves are also subtle and chic enough to remain discreet in nature without screaming of "nerd!" The audio performance, as with all open audio systems, is a more subjective experience that also has its charms. As a cyclist in the big city, I welcome any features that allow ambient noise to come through for my safety.
I have to say that Fauna's current software needs plenty of refinement since there are too many connectivity issues to grapple with. I am also disappointed that the glasses turn on every time I take them off and only turn off after a while - and cannot be reactivated again without a case. If the battery life wasn't already so poor at just four hours, I would have to combat the tendency to keep wearing it. However, the 100 mAh battery fares poorly so much so that it contradicts the audio prompt not to remove the glasses at all.